No one, and I mean no one expected it, but the Pittsburgh Steelers went into Baltimore and came away with a win.
Despite having a laundry list of injuries, Mike Tomlin’s team played as inspired a game as they have in quite some time and in the process, saved their season.
You can even make the case that Sunday’s win was the biggest regular season win in the Tomlin era. If not the biggest, definitely the most meaningful.
With that being said, let’s take a look at how each position graded out in my weekly report card.
Quarterback: When Charlie Batch missed he missed badly, but when the Steelers needed him the most, he delivered by completing his final eight passes in the fourth quarter, leading the Steelers on the game-tying touchdown drive and game-winning field goal drive. He was about average in the first quarter and awful in the second and it looked like the best play he was going to make was the block he delivered on Jonathan Dwyer’s touchdown run. But Batch got it together and finished the game 25 for 36 for 276 yards, a touchdown and an interception, most of which came in the second half where Batch was outstanding. If this was his swan song, as it is rumored that Ben Roethlisberger could be back next week, it was a heck of a way to go out. Grade: B+
Running Backs: The combination of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman gained only 92 yards on 25 carries, but they did enough to take some of the pressure off of Batch. Dwyer had a big touchdown run and ran hard throughout the game. They only averaged 3.7 yards per carry, but most importantly they didn’t fumble. Grade: B-
Wide Receivers: Turnovers by Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders led to both Ravens’ touchdowns, but both made big plays on the final drive. Mike Wallace also made a cameo appearance on the final drive where he hauled in three passes. Heath Miller was his usual brilliant self, with a 43-yard catch-and-run to set up the first touchdown and a great individual effort on a 7-yard touchdown to tie the game. Grade: B
Offensive Line: They had to shuffle around again, this time with Maurkice Pouncey moving to guard and Doug Legursky playing center, but playing without two starters, they turned in a great performance, perhaps their best of the season. Max Starks and rookie right tackle Kelvin Beachum, played a major part in neutralizing the Ravens’ pass rush, as Batch was only sacked twice and was protected very well in the fourth quarter. Beachum had help on the day, but the line controlled Paul Kruger, who was a monster the first time the teams met. Grade: A
Defensive Line: Brett Keisel was very good again and Ziggy Hood made a rare appearance in terms of production. Overall though, the line didn’t do as good of a job against the Ravens’ rushing attack as they did in the first meeting. Ray Rice broke a big touchdown run and the Ravens averaged 5.3 yards per carry. It would have been interesting to see what the number looked like if Baltimore didn’t completely forget about Rice, as he didn’t touch the ball once in the fourth quarter and had only five touches in the third quarter. Grade: C+
Linebackers: James Harrison led the team with seven tackles and made the big play that turned the game around when he strip-sacked Joe Flacco. But as mentioned, the Ravens had plenty of success on the ground, which made it even more shocking that they went away from the run, especially given the fact that Flacco was playing poorly. Grade: B
Secondary: Ike Taylor’s injury could have been fatal to unit that hadn’t allowed a 200-yard passer in six games coming into Sunday. But even though they had success attacking Cortez Allen early, the Ravens didn’t target him much in the second half. The final result was that Flacco threw for only 188 yards. They were spotty at times, but made plays when they had to, including Ryan Clark getting a pick. Grade: B+
Special Teams: Shaun Suisham was outstanding again like he has been all season and Drew Butler did a great job not punting down the middle of the field. In addition, the coverage units did a great job of not allowing Jacoby Jones to impact the game: Grade: A+
Coaching: Few people outside of the Steelers’ locker room expected them to win this game and Mike Tomlin did a great job of using that to their advantage. Teams just don’t win in Baltimore, especially with a third-string quarterback, but Tomlin and every single coach had this team ready to play and they saved their season in the process. Grade: A+